POWs freed by Hungary expected to speak out against Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at Russian positions at the frontline near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on Monday, May 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos, File)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

Ethnic Hungarians who were Ukrainian prisoners of war are preparing to hold a press conference in Hungary, where they are expected to criticize Ukraine and thank the Russian Orthodox Church, which allegedly helped hand them over to the Hungarian side, Ukrainian news portal RBC-Ukraine reports, citing sources close to the Ukrainian intelligence services.

The Ukrainian news outlet claims that the 11 Ukrainian POWs handed over by Russia are not actually free, but are in the custody of Hungary. The 11 POWs are from the Transcarpathia region in Hungary, where approximately 150,000 ethnic Hungarians live.

Ukrainian servicemen from the Azov Brigade salute their comrade Andrii Konyaev, a member of the Azov Brigade defending Mariupol who was killed on July 29, 2022, at Olenivka, a Russian prisoner of war camp, during a funeral ceremony in Fastiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

“At a press conference, the prisoners will have to explain how they were mobilized by force, how bad the conditions were in which they fought, and how good the Hungarian government and the Russian Orthodox Church are,” the Ukrainian newspaper quotes its source as saying.

On Saturday, Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén categorically refuted these allegations.

The deputy prime minister said that, contrary to all the rumors, the 11 Transcarpathian Hungarians are no longer “prisoners of war” but free people.

“If I were a representative of Ukraine, I would have said thank you for that!” Semjén told Mandiner.

Many ethnic Hungarians have died fighting for Ukraine, a point that the Hungarian government has made when arguing that the conflict needs to end in order for the bloodshed to end. It is unclear how many are currently serving in the Ukrainian army, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said that hundreds have been killed.

Many of these Hungarians have been forcibly conscripted into the Ukrainian army, although some have also volunteered. Some ethnic Hungarian activists have accused Ukraine of using these soldiers as cannon fodder on the frontline as a form of ethnic cleansing.

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